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One of the most surprising things in recent years was how The Fast and the Furious became one of the biggest franchises on the planet. Seriously, this series turned from a mildly successful street racing movie into a huge silly heist blockbuster that could take over $1billion. That’s staggering. But with those movies being a huge success, Hollywood thinks we are into big stupid movies again so they are going to go mad making them and bringing back old series that fit the template. That’s how we have ended up with the xXx series coming back with xXx: Return of Xander Cage.

Xander Cage (Vin Diesel, Fast & Furious 6) has been lying low for many years after his initial assignment in the xXx program. However it turns out other agents in the program have gone rogue and have got a device that can send satellites crashing to Earth, causing massive devastation in their wake and killing his old handler Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson, Pulp Fiction). This brings Cage back into the fold as he and his team aim to stop these rogues from killing even more people.

And pretty much from the off you can tell that you aren’t exactly meant to be taking this movie seriously. After an introduction which sees Samuel l Jackson talk Neymar, yes the Brazilian footballer, into becoming an xXx agent, we soon switch to Xander who first skis down a mountain before skateboarding into a bar to evade policemen who are after him after tampering with a communication tower? Why was Xander doing that? So the locals could watch the Brazil Vs Germany game, which suspiciously looks like the one where the Brazilians get tanked 7-1, so he’ll probably be a villain very soon in that village. But you get what the film is trying to do, it wants to be a take your brain out and enjoy the movie sort of thing and there’s nothing wrong with that. But the dangerous thing about a film like this is that they sometimes try to lazy and use the fact it’s a brain out movie as an excuse to get away with it.

The thing about that brain out thing is that you can’t just be funny and claim it, you have to go all out with it. You have to have daft performances which make Tim Curry look subtle and you have to make jumping the shark a thing that happens at least five times with at least half of those times including fire in some way. And for a while, the film is doing that with wry dialogue and a scene where Xander is pursuing villain Xiang (Donnie Yen, Ip Man) on dirtbikes and they end up on a lake. That’s awesome enough until actually circles them, making it stupidly awesome. The film works when it does stuff like that. But the other action scenes are rather plain and boring, something you’d see in any other action film. And when your selling point is that you are a big daft movie, you need to deliver on big daft action.

And the performers need to go all out as well. This is down to the director D.J Caruso (Disturbia) as well, who is obviously telling the actors how they should do it. That’s why I’m not putting all the blame on the actors, because they have to trust the guy behind the camera that what he’s saying is best for the film. It isn’t Everyone in this movie is muted and seemingly blind to the fact that everything that is happening in the movie is incredibly stupid. Vin Diesel is particularly bad as he grumbles through yet another terrible performance and not having anyway near enough charisma and charm to make you like him with all the asshole stunts he pulls throughout the movie. The cast are just boring and their attempts at humour are either unnoticeable or cringeworthy.

So what it all leads to is a bland generic spy plot, one you’ve seen a million times before. No attempts to put a unique twist on it, nothing to make it stand out in the pack. Just the usual spy movie with double crosses, bland techno babble that means nothing but sort of sounds smart and the usual action beats. The film’s big twist is so telegraphed that the film barely acts like it was a twist, the movie barely stops to acknowledges it happens and carries on like normal. That’s the level this film is where there’s some realisation by the people who made it that this is pretty dull and they should get on with it so we see the credits as soon as possible.

But while I’m being rather cruel on the film, I best say some nice things. Because while the action is not the greatest in the world, it is decently done. Caruso is smart enough not to just choppily edit all of his stuff so we can’t see what’s going on, instead allowing the stunt men to do their thing and do some rather cool stuff. After the overly CGI ways of the second xXx film killed that one and the franchise until now, it is a refreshing change. And if you are one of the 12 fans of this franchise, you’ll probably enjoy a reveal in the final third.

Even with all of that though xXx: Return of Xander Cage is a dud. If you are going to make a zany action movie, make it a zany action movie. Have massive impossible stunts, have every piece of dialogue be a witty one liner, actually make it seem like all the people involved are having good fun. Don’t give us a tedious action film that does very little to most of it’s contemporaries and when we attack the tired plot, act like we shouldn’t care because it’s all about the action. Well your action is decent, I won’t lie, but it is not good enough to make us ignore that everything else in this film is a bore.

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